Monday, February 27, 2017

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Wrap Up - The Good, The Bad, & The Glorious.

The Academy Awards, just one year shy of its 90th birthday, chose its 89th running to become one of the most controversial of all time. Here’s how everything shook loose and fell into the Good, Bad, and Glorious.


-First time host Jimmy Kimmel was a ball of energy and kept the momentum going throughout the broadcast. His carry-overs from his talk-show, such as his feud (?) with Matt Damon and Celebrity Tweets were well-timed and well-received. His most important job of the evening was to set the tone, and in a night where we all expected some political rage, Kimmel called for unity….and that’s what we got. Hopefully he will be back for many more.

-Gags such as candy falling from the ceiling and the bus-load of unsuspecting tourists were a blast to see play out. In the latter, just imagine how you would feel if you walked into a room full of your favorite actors and actresses. And seeing stars such as Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep warmly receive their fans was a joy to see, and certainly counters the tired old criticism of stuffy and out-of-touch Hollywood celebrities.

-Justin Timberlake’s opening musical number literally got the entire theatre on their feet and clapping (even Jeff Bridges), and set the high-energy tone of the night. The best part about it was the song was Timberlake’s nominated Can’t Stop the Feeling from TROLLS, and it was a clever way to get one of the nominated-song performances out of the way.


-The biggest fuck-up of all time in the history of the Oscars happened at the climactic moment; the announcing of the Best Picture winner. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, reunited for the 50th anniversary of their BONNIE AND CLYDE (a nice touch), were handed a duplicate envelope of Emma Stone’s Best Actress win for LA LA LAND. Beatty was confused, and Dunaway announced the winner as LA LA LAND. Three acceptance speeches later, the producers of the show interrupted and awkwardly announced that a mistake had been made and MOONLIGHT was the real winner. We have to be thankful that the mistake was caught right away, but it absolutely made the Academy look ridiculous (even though there’s an accounting firm which does the tabulating and handling of the envelopes), and made Hollywood look like a bunch of dumbasses. Inexcusable. And just for a bit of history…in 1964 Sammy Davis Jr. was handed the wrong envelope when he was announcing the winner of Best Music Score during the 36th Awards.

-MOONLIGHT winning Best Picture. This Blogger found this film to be without a plot and just a meandering film which wandered around aimlessly…and not deserving of a nomination never mind a win as the best film of the year; there were at least 20 films that were better and more rounded…including LA LA LAND whose 14 nominations pointed towards a more complete film. Yes, MOONLIGHT’s topic of an underprivileged black gay boy coming to terms with his sexuality is an important topic, and yes it is the first LGBTQ film to win…but the name of the category is Best Picture, not Best Concept. In the Academy Awards, and filmmaking, the idea is only the beginning. A Best Picture sees it all the way through.

-And if that wasn’t bad enough, the In Memoriam piece ran a picture of someone who isn’t dead. Instead of costume designer Janet Patterson, the image of producer Jan Chapman was mistakenly used.


-Aside from the fuck-up, the In Memoriam piece had wonderful tributes to fan favorites Gene Wilder, Debbie Reynolds, and Carrie Fisher. And the great Bill Paxton, who had passed away less than 12 hours earlier, was mentioned.

-Wonderful touch bringing out the real-life Katherine Johnson, who was the main character in the nominated HIDDEN FIGURES.

-Sixteen year-old Auli'i Cravalho was tremendous in her performance of the nominated song How Far I'll Go from MOANA.

-Seth Rogen and Michael J. Fox joining together for a little BACK TO THE FUTURE tribute; proving that you really can go back again.

-This Blogger has been saying for years that the ceremony doesn’t embrace its rich history nearly enough, but this year they finally listened. The segments with actors describing their favorite films and actors, and the montages of actors before their respective categories were excellent, and brought back many memories of past Oscars and their films. Hopefully this is a trend that continues for another 89 years.

-Viola Davis, who took home an Oscar for her powerful performance in FENCES, became the first black woman to win an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony for acting. And if that wasn’t great enough, her acceptance speech will go down as one of the greatest of all time; speaking from the heart and reminding the world why these finely-dressed artists do what they do. She reminded us of the passion behind dreaming and storytelling, and how the movies equal life. And that’s what the Oscars are really all about.


The 90th Academy Awards will be presented on March 4th, 2018.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton 1955-2017

Bill Paxton; actor, director, and fan-favorite…has passed away at 61.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas…to a father who worked as an occasional actor, Bill Paxton broke into the movie business when then little-known director James Cameron cast him as a punk thug in his sci-fi horror film which was destined to become a classic…TERMINATOR in 1981. With his knack for playing a character who was out-of-control but totally in-control at all times, it was a role that got him noticed and would begin a very successful career in collaborating with Cameron. Cameron would cast Paxton as the sarcastic Pvt. Hudson in the smash-hit ALIENS (1986), and then in his spy-thriller TRUE LIES (1994), and in his history-making TITANIC (1997). Paxton would re-join Cameron for his documentary film GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS (2003) which explored the Titanic wreck.

He would appear in some of the most popular films of our time playing characters vital to their stories. He would play Morgan Earp in TOMBSTONE (1993), Astronaut Fred Haise in APOLLO 13 (1995), and would play the lead-role in the thriller TWISTER (1996). Other notable roles included ONE FALSE MOVE (1992), A SIMPLE PLAN (1998), and EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014). He would also appear in STRIPES (1981), STREETS OF FIRE (1984), WEIRD SCIENCE (1985), COMMANDO (1985), NAVY SEALS (1990), PREDATOR 2 (1990), FRANK AND JESSE (1994), MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1998), U-571 (2000), CLUB DREAD (2004), THUNDERBIRDS (2004), and NIGHTCRAWLER (2014).

He would receive acclaim for his television performances, including an Emmy nomination for his role in HATFIELDS & MCCOYS, and three Golden Globe nominations for his role in BIG LOVE. He would appear as a super-villain of sorts in Marvel’s AGENTS OF SHIELD. As a director, he would helm feature films such as FRAILTY (2001), and THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED (2005).


Bill Paxton was one of those actors who could play anything, and he did it so well every role seemed to be the one he was born to play. It didn’t matter if he was a punk, treasure hunter, soldier, astronaut, or cowboy…he stepped into every role as easily as we step in and out of a pair of shoes, and he played the characters we wanted to be. His greatest role was that of a fan-favorite; everyone liked him…which likely began in 1986 in ALIENS. As a wee-lad, this Blogger and his brother loved his role as Pvt. Hudson. He was the most human character of the doomed squad, reacting the way we would have reacted, but when the fight came he was the one we wanted to have by our side at all times. He brought us joy, comfort, and happiness…and he leaves us as one of the most unique character actors ever to grace the screens.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks - Part 2

In this second and final part of Oscar Picks, Reel Speak picks the winners in the elemental categories leading to Best Picture.

Besides great acting, there are a handful of categories which are essential for any Best Picture contender to have a presence in. These are the categories which showcase the craftsmanship of film; from the writing stage, to the on-set direction, to the final cut. Here are this Blogger’s picks in this year’s categories.

Best Film Editing

This is one of the most overlooked and yet vital category. In the 89-year history of the Academy, two-thirds of the Best Picture winners have won for editing, and that includes a streak of 33 consecutive years (1981-2013). This year the field is very competitive, with all five nominees having a legit shot. The frontrunners are LA LA LAND and ARRIVAL, which were the winners in American Cinema Editor Awards last month (LA LA LAND for comedy/musical, ARRIVAL for drama). LA LA LAND will likely win this, as it has an incredible sense of energy and forward motion even during its slower scenes…and the musical numbers are cut beautifully…but it’s fair to mention that in the last three years, the Best Editing and Best Picture awards have been split. If it’s a close vote, ARRIVAL or HACKSAW RIDGE could steal it.

Winner: LA LA LAND

Best Adapted Screenplay

No film has won Best Picture without at least a nomination for its screenplay since TITANIC in 1997, so it’s fair to say the Academy rightfully values good writing. This year’s Adapted Screenplay category is a tricky one; MOONLIGHT won the category of Original Screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards, but the Academy considers MOONLIGHT to be an adapted work, so here it’s competing against ARRIVAL, which won the category of Adapted Screenplay at those same Guild Awards. The other factor is that the Academy has a tendency to favor dialogue-driven films, which gives FENCES an outside shot. But FENCES was basically a carbon copy of the stage production, which means a lot less work had to be done. And speaking of work, ARRIVAL has to work as an emotional character piece and a puzzle-box mystery…which leads up to one of the most startling twists in recent cinema. MOONLIGHT is the favorite, but this category has upset written all over it.  


Best Original Screenplay

As stated, films that are dialogue-driven tend to be favored by the Academy, and that puts MANCHESTER BY THE SEA in the lead. It had excellent character development, well-timed flashbacks, well-timed humor, and overall has a finely constructed narrative that moves and engages. Writer Kenneth Lonergan has been twice nominated here before (GANGS OF NEW YORK and YOU CAN COUNT ON ME), and the Academy loves repeat nominees.


Best Director

A lot of us would love to see Mel Gibson finish his path of redemption with a win for his powerful war film HACKSAW RIDGE, but the favorites seem to be Damien Chazelle for LA LA LAND and Barry Jenkins for MOONLIGHT. This can be a tricky selection, as three of the last five Best Director winners did not win Best Picture. Chazelle took home the Directors Guild Award this year, along with the BAFTA and the Golden Globe…and his film certainly seems to the most original out of all of the nominees and has the most imagination and grander vision. No split this year.

Winner: Damien Chazelle for LA LA LAND

Best Picture

Similar to the Best Director race, this comes down to LA LA LAND and MOONLIGHT. This Blogger found MOONLIGHT to be a film without much of a plot, and it seems to be getting more attention for its important subject matter than its actual execution…and that is not what a Best Picture should be. LA LA LAND has wins at the BAFTA, SAG, DGA, and PGA (Producers Guild), and also took home a record seven Golden Globes. And speaking of records, its 14 Oscar nominations ties it with the most all-time; it has a presence in every major category, and that large number points towards a more-rounded and complete film.

Winner: LA LA LAND


Read Reel Speak’s picks in the acting categories HERE

The Oscars will be awarded this Sunday, February 26th.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks - Part 1

In this first part of Oscar Picks, Reel Speak picks the winners in the four acting categories.

The nominees for the upcoming 89th Academy Awards are one fine and diverse class of actors and actresses; ranging from veterans to newcomers turning in powerhouse and gentle performances. Here are this Blogger’s predictions for the winners…

Best Supporting Actress

With all due respect to all of the nominees in this category, this is no contest…as Viola Davis in FENCES is the clear frontrunner and eventual winner. Momentum is on her side as she’s already won the Golden Globe and BAFTA, and FENCES is a film which is dialogue-driven, which gives her more to work with. Her closest competition is Michelle Williams who broke a lot of hearts in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, but her screentime was very limited. Naomi Harris was outstanding in MOONLIGHT (she was the best part about it), but common sense says this will be the first of two major wins for FENCES.

Winner: Viola Davis

Best Supporting Actor

Readers of Reel Speak should know by now that this Blogger was no big fan of MOONLIGHT, but Mahershala Ali seems to be the favorite to win this category…despite having mumbled throughout the film. He’s won the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) in this category, which bested fellow Oscar nominees Jeff Bridges and Dev Patel. This Blogger would love to see an upset here, especially with young Lucas Hedges for his grounded and heartbreaking role in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, but Ali looks to be the favorite.

Winner: Mahershala Ali

Best Actress

This is a very strong class of nominees with three of the five in very dramatic and tragic roles; such as Ruth Negga’s gentle yet strong determination in LOVING, Natalie Portman’s tragic turn in JACKIE, and Isabelle Huppert’s dark role in ELLE. The fun and charm can be found with Emma Stone in LA LA LAND and multi-nominee Meryl Streep in FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS. It’s a tight race, but Emma Stone is the only actress here whose film is a Best Picture nominee, and that gives her the edge.

Winner: Emma Stone

Best Actor

With respect to all of the actors in this category, this is another no-contest…as Denzel Washington should run away with this one easily. His powerhouse performance in FENCES, which he also directed, basically turned this veteran actor into another person…and it was easy to forget that we were watching Denzel. His closest competition is Casey Affleck for MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, who bested Denzel at the Globes, but it’s hard to imagine it happening again…as Denzel was too huge and complex of a character in FENCES. Denzel has already won the SAG, and on this night gets his third career Oscar.

Winner: Denzel Washington


In Part 2, Reel Speak picks the winners in the elemental categories leading to Best Picture.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Reel Review: The Oscar Nominated Live-Action Short Films

With much less time, money, and resources to work with, Short Films often rely on new ideas and imagination to shine, and they often burn brighter than their big brothers and sisters in the Best Feature category. The nominees in this year’s Best Live Action Short category are a far cry from the innovation we’ve seen in the past, as for the most part they are grounded in reality and swimming in social issues. The five nominees have a lot in common with each other; very serious, very few laughs, and all non-English speaking.

Here are the nominees and their reviews.

SING – At a primary school in Hungary, a choir teacher instructs less talented students to lip-sync during performances to improve their chances in an upcoming competition.

We’ve all seen and heard stories about adults behaving badly in the worlds of childhood competition such as little league or pee-wee football, and this is a look at what can happen when a children’s choir teacher gets too greedy. Besides its unique storyline, what really makes this one (ahem) sing is that its shown through the eyes of a child; specifically, a new student and her new best friend. The filmmakers do a great job in letting us in on the pain a little girl can feel when she is told she is not good enough to sing, and the little scheme the students come up with in an act of defiance is wonderfully executed.  

TIMECODE – Luna and Diego are parking lot security guards, with one taking the night shift and the other day. When they discover a common interest in dance, they leave messages for each other through the security cameras and recordings.

Quirky and light, TIMECODE is the one film in this year’s nominees which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Luna and Diego never speak to each other on camera, and their only communication in the film is done through their dancing, which we only see through the security recordings. It’s a straight-lined, A to Z story with very little surprises or twists, and could have used a bit more drama, but it’s easy to digest (despite some weird dancing), and offers a few light laughs.

SILENT NIGHTS – Inger, a Danish volunteer at a homeless shelter, falls in love with Kwame, an illegal Ghaniaan immigrant…who is hiding a few secrets.

This is an odd one which sends many mixed messages about race and immigration. The film goes out of its way to show us how cruel society can be to the homeless, especially ones of different color and from another country, but then has Kwame pull a few despicable acts which makes us wonder what exactly the film is trying to say. The love story between the two moves in a big damn hurry, even for a short film, and the conclusion leaves Inger in a very awkward place which she oddly seems content with. There are some strong ideas at work here; all of which are presented in a jumbled jar of nut and bolts.

ENNEMIS INTERIEURS (or ENEMIES WITHIN) – An interview at a local police station gets ugly when a French-Algerian man, who is applying for citizenship, suddenly feels like he is being interrogated.

Heavily political, 90% of this slow-burner takes place in one room, with a French investigator relentlessly firing off questions to a man who just wants to call France home. It’s a dry talkie, and only pumps up the tension when the investigator uncovers the man’s ties to an Arab community, and perhaps unfairly digs to discover if there are any terrorist connections. After all the banter, the ending is somewhat unsatisfying, and the film overall feels like one small piece to an incomplete puzzle.

LA FEMME ET LE TGV (or THE RAILROAD LADY) – Elise, a lonely old Swiss-French woman who has been waving at the same train as it passed by for many years, suddenly receives a letter from the conductor which changes her life.

Based on a true story, this is less of a love story and more of a look at how we cling to our daily routines, and what can happen when they suddenly change. Elise has been waving at the same train for decades and that has become a huge part of her life. When the first letter arrives, it changes things and offers opportunity…and then when the train suddenly stops coming, that change turns her life upside down. Routines are wonderful, the film is telling us, and losing them can present heartbreak or a chance for something new…or even both. It’s the most philosophical film of the bunch, and despite being firmly grounded in today’s world is the most feel-good film of this year’s nominees.


The Oscars will be awarded February 26th.

Read Reel Speak’s review on the nominees for the Animated Shorts HERE.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Reel Review: The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films

Short Films can be considered to be the purest form of filmmaking. With little time to work with, emphasis is on the story and getting things done as quick as possible without losing meaning. With animation, that task is made easier as any character, creature, or world can be created or re-created. This year’s nominees for Best Animated Short Film are another most-excellent collection of films which are full of every emotion in the book.

Here are the nominees and their reviews…

BORROWED TIME – In the Old West, an aging sheriff returns to the site of a tragic accident that he has spent his entire life trying to forget.

This was created by Pixar animators during their spare time, as part of the company’s Co-op program which allows their artists and animators to produce independent films…so this can be considered an official unofficial Pixar submission. Being that it’s outside of the traditional Pixar pipeline, this film is very dark and tragic, with death taking the front row seat. It’s one of the shortest of the nominees, but it gets the point across very well despite only three things happening in the story. It’s a look at death in the eye, and its shortness doesn’t take away from its impact.

PEARL – A little girl and her father travel the country in a hatchback and bond over their love of music.

With zero dialogue and song lyrics serving as the only words we hear, PEARL is a look at the bonding and drifting that a father-daughter relationship goes through…all seen through dad’s old car. It’s sweet, fun, and clever…and the animation style makes the more clichéd themes at work seem fresh.

PIPER – A sandpiper hatchling leaves the nest for the first time to learn how to feed himself.

This official Pixar entry ran in front of FINDING DORY in 2016, and is the most familiar and comfortable. It’s a coming-of-age story with no dialogue, and just the actions and fears of the most adorable little creature in the history of film driving the story. The story is solid, but the real selling point is the animation, which is breathtaking and another level-up for Pixar. The ocean waves and beautiful, and we can literally count the grains of sand on the beach. This is the most real-looking CG animation has ever been.

BLIND VAYSHA – The story of a girl who is born with a unique ability; one of her eyes only sees the past, while the other only sees the future.

Dark and full of expression, this is set up like a folk tale or the type of story spun around a campfire. Narrated, it spends most of its time explaining how the little girl sees things, and its closing moments waxing philosophical. It’s a simple, yet effective message about how we should be viewing the world, other people, and our own lives…and feels like it could have been part of a larger story.

PEAR CIDER AND CIGARETTES – Techno, a lifetime hard drinker and smoker, is helped by his childhood friend when his liver begins to fail.

The longest of the nominees at a hefty 35 minutes, this real-life tale covers decades of friendship, as the narrator goes through all sorts of hell trying to get his best friend Techno to lay off the booze while he waits for a new liver. Its real life and tragic, but the presentation is so direct and powerful (and very funny in places), that it is very captivating. The animation is stunning, and Techno, despite being an asshole and knowing it, is a character that we all may have had in our lives at one time or another; the type that goes through 98% of life invincible, and the last two percent with life catching up. This is one film which will make anyone second-guess their life choices.


The Oscars will be awarded February 26th.

Read Reel Speak's review on the nominated Live Action Shorts HERE

Friday, February 10, 2017


There are only two ways to make a parody; either with love, or without. The latter method pokes fun with the intent of tearing down the original material and expose faults. The former, which is often the most fun and less mean, pokes fun while acting as a tribute and a love-letter. For Chris McKay and his creative team behind THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, it isn’t hard to figure out where they’re coming from.

In a universe built out of Lego, Batman (Will Arnett), who always insists on working alone, has his crime-fighting world turned upside down when he accidently adopts orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), while Gotham City’s new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) decides to battle crime without the Bat. Things get more complicated when The Joker (Zack Galifianakis), decides to bring an army of villains to town to force Batman to admit that he is his greatest enemy.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is all about Batman and his journey to accept that teamwork is the best way to go. After a fantastic opening sequence, this version of The Caped Crusader shows that he has been successful in working alone, and does so mostly because of his painful past. As the plot unfolds, Batman is forced to face those demons and accept that even he needs help. But what would seem like a clichéd and overused plot is made fresh not only by the colorful and vibrant world that these Lego people inhabit, but by the writing team who makes sure every character has a vital role in Batman’s little journey of discovery. Every character is worthwhile, and through some clever metaphors in this world, makes for a meaty and digestible story.

With over 78 years of history to draw from, finding material to pack this Batman movie with wasn’t difficult. Every version of Batman on film and TV finds a presence here, as does his gallery of bad guys, and the film is saturated in Batman lore. Director Chris McKay has clearly done his homework here, as everything from the character’s long history is put to good use. Not content with just stopping there, the film also uses Joker’s army to populate the film with great villains of pop culture; everyone from King Kong, Godzilla, Gremlins, Voldemort, the Daleks, and few dozen Agent Smiths show up…along with a few more surprises. The various cameos and superhero references are a blast.

The jokes and gags come non-stop, and there’s barely enough time to take in one joke before the next is happening. Our current state of pop culture, blockbuster movies, and our own world is lampooned over and over, and it provides more than one laugh-out-loud moment and big dumb grins. The movie is amazing to look at; Gotham looks rich and vast and the design for the famed Batcave is eye-popping. Closeups of the characters reveal an astonishing level of detail. Music selections are well-timed and fun, and the film even parodies the music used in the last few live-action Batman films.

The voiceover cast is perfect. Will Arnett turns in a great performance, and it’s fair to assume that he had a blast doing it. Michael Cera is probably the real surprise as Dick Grayson (spoiler-alert, he becomes Robin), as he’s unrecognizable and fully captures the character. Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon feels inspired (another spoiler, she becomes Batgirl), and Ralph Fiennes is perfect as Alfred. Zach Galifianakis is excellent as Joker. The rest of the large cast including Channing Tatum (Superman), Jonah Hill (Green Lantern), Zoe Kravitz (Catwoman), Jenny Slate (Harley Quinn), Mariah Carey (the Mayor), Conan O’Brien (Riddler), and Billy Dee Williams (Two-Face) are perfect in their roles.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE throws a lot at the screen in character, plot, jokes, music, and in visuals…and even though the film is “only” 106 minutes, it’s easy to feel exhausted by the time the visual and audio assault ends and the colorful credits start. If it has any fault it’s that its execution actually matches the high-ambition. This is an absolute blast, and clearly made by people who care.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Reel Birthday

This month marks the 7th anniversary of Reel Speak.

The number seven has always had a significant place in our culture, world, and universe. As a prime number, it has mathematical qualities which make it unique. The Old Testament tells us that the Earth was created in seven days, and in the natural world, there are seven days in the week, seven colors in a rainbow, seven seas, and seven continents, and history gives us seven emperors of Rome and the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. With such a presence, the number naturally became a part of music, art…and cinema. In film there were seven dwarfs in SNOW WHITE, seven deadly sins in SE7EN, and we also had THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES, THE SEVEN SAMURAI, and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. The number was a favorite of This Blogger as a young padawan, and as of this writing, there have been seven episodes in the primary STAR WARS saga.

And it is with STAR WARS where the origins of Reel Speak can be traced. In the grand year of 1977, This Blogger experienced STAR WARS for the first time…and was immediately placed on his career and life path. That night would inspire creativity, imagination, and most of all…hope. A hope that burns brightly still…each and every time the theatre lights dim and the screen brightens. On this 7th anniversary of Reel Speak, it is once again time to share This Blogger’s reasons for loving the movies. This list, made up of direct and indirect film references, has changed and evolved over the years (much like its creator), but hopefully it offers a glimpse behind the curtain…where the wizard does his work. This is where Reel Speak comes from, as every one of these reasons is a piece of This Blogger.


20. Because the trick is not minding that it hurts.

19. Because if they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you.

18. Because a Jaguar Shark ate my best friend.

17. Because we will not walk in fear of one another.

16. Because of John Williams.

15. Because I have been, and always shall be your friend.

14. Because Claire once wore angel wings.  

13. Because Red October was hunted.

12. Because the only Virtue is Vengeance. A Vendetta.

11. Because Crom laughs at your four winds!

10. Because it’s a wonderful night for Oscar.

9. Because they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

8. Because “I love you”, and “I know”.

7. Because every man dies. Not every man really lives.

6. Because I will drink your milkshake.

5. Because if someone asks me if I’m a god, I say yes.

4. Because they needed a bigger boat.

3. Because there had to be snakes.

2. Because the Fellowship will not fail.

1. Because of what happened on May 25th, 1977.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Reel Review: The Super Bowl Movie Trailers - The Good, the Bad, & the Glorious

Movie studios thrive on summer dollars, which makes every Summer Movie Season a vital battleground. The path to big box office numbers always begins with the Super Bowl, as the opportunity to showcase your best in front of squillions of eyeballs worldwide is an important one to take advantage of.

Movie trailers are like commercials. Commercials sell things. So the questions to be asked for the batch of new trailers which ran during this year’s Super Bowl LI (that’s 51, for you muggles out there), are…what are they selling, and did it work? Here are the trailers which ran, broken down into the Good, Bad, and Glorious.


LOGAN – Hugh Jackman’s final turn as everyone’s favorite clawed mutant is being sold as a hard-ass, gritty R-rated flick, and although this new trailer didn’t show a lot of new footage previously released, absolutely sold its image as a departure from the cartoony antics of the last few X-MEN movies. Backed by a chilling rendition of Amazing Grace, this trailer had a nice balance of grit and grace.

GHOST IN THE SHELL – The big-screen adaptation of the Japanese manga series has a long way to go in selling itself to general American audiences, so they seem to be going for sex appeal. With that said, having star Scarlett Johansson strip away her coat in the opening seconds to reveal an eye-popping skin-tight outfit goes a long way. Thousands of tickets sold right there.

BAYWATCH – This trailer gave the world exactly what it expects out of a BAYWATCH movie; babes, boobs, and buff bods.


TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT – Michael Bay’s fifth (!) entry into the warring alien-robot franchise looked great (stunning visuals), and it’s always wonderful to hear the great Peter Cullen providing the voice of the iconic Optimus Prime…but this new trailer just gave us the same-old, same-old. After four movies of this, they are all starting to look the same.

FATE OF THE FURIOUS – This long-running franchise of car-wreck porn must have a built-in audience to last this long, and this new trailer, which did not show a lot of new footage, gave fans just what it expects out of these movies; fast cars doing silly shit. This was 90% noise.

You get negative points for not showing up. There were noticeable absences from Pixar, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE SHACK, and KONG: SKULL ISLAND.

Speaking of not showing up, no studio is in dire need of some good press more than Warner Bros. and their sputtering franchise based on D.C. Comics superheroes. There were no new trailers from WB, including a no-show for their upcoming WONDER WOMAN which is up first.


Not really a trailer, but we had some big-names turn in some great efforts directing commercials. The Coen Brothers put together a nice Mercedes commercial which spoofed EASY RIDER and had a cameo from Peter Fonda, and Peter Berg’s Hyundai ad was a wonderful tribute to our Armed Forces.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES – This franchise feels like it ran out of steam a whole movie ago, but that won’t stop Disney from rolling out one hell of a trailer. Backed by Johnny Cash’s Ain’t No Grave, which feels like a song a pirate would sing anyway, this trailer showed a dark, yet fun-looking film…and also gave us our first glimpses of characters played by Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, and Johnny Depp.

A CURE FOR WELLNESS – Director Gore Verbinski, who helmed the first three PIRATES films, is returning to the horror genre for the first time since THE RING…this time with a trip to a madhouse. There were two trailers presented on Super Bowl Sunday; one being the standard spot with lots of quick shots…and the other playing out like a commercial for an anti-depressant drug before revealing its true form. Fascinating in both tries.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 – Disney and Marvel Studios’ long-awaited sequel to the 2014 pop-culture bending smash-hit was rolled out in one big barrel of fun. New characters were introduced, old ones re-introduced, a colorful montage of action and eye-popping visuals blasted away on the small-screen, and a handful of zippy one-liners have already become instantly quotable. Disney and Marvel are selling fun here, and this was the spot that brought the most smiles.


Super Bowl LII will be played February 4th, 2018.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Reel Preview: The Year In Film 2017 - Episode II

The bad news about February is that it’s a month of cast-offs and oddballs, but the good news is it’s a short month, and there is still plenty of time to catch up on the Oscar nominees before the awards are handed out on the 26th; many of which have been re-released into theatres, along with the nominated Live-Action and Animated short films. Outside of that, here are the notable new releases for the second month of 2017.

It all gets creepy with…

RINGS – The third entry in the horror franchise in which a ghostly little girl kills anyone who watches her video. Vincent D’Onofrio stars.

THE SPACE BETWEEN US – In this sci-fi romance, Asa Butterfield (HUGO) plays a young man who is born on a Mars colony, and begins a long-distance relationship with a girl on Earth, played by Britt Robertson. Also stars Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino.

THE COMEDIAN – The once-revered Robert DeNiro stars as a comic icon who is sentenced to community service. The overqualified cast includes Danny DeVito, Edie Falco, Charles Grodin, Harvey Keitel, Billy Crystal, and Leslie Mann.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 – The sequel to the surprise 2014 hit in which Keanu Reeves plays a legendary hitman forced out of retirement. Reeves is re-united with his old MATRIX co-star Laurence Fishburne, along with John Leguizamo, Peter Stormare, and Ian McShane,

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE – A spinoff of the other surprise hit of 2014, THE LEGO MOVIE. Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) goes on a mission to discover himself and to save Lego Gotham City. Stars the voices of Zach Galifianakis (as the The Joker), Ralph Fiennes (Alfred), Michael Cera (Robin), Rosario Dawson (Batgirl), and Mariah Carey (the Mayor).

FIFTY SHADES DARKER – The sequel to the 2015 erotic thriller. Returning are Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dorman, and they are joined by Kim Basinger, Luke Grimes, and Marcia Gay Harden.

A UNITED KINGDOM – Based on the true story of a Botswana prince who falls in love with a London office worker and takes her to his home country, only to have their interracial marriage challenged by their own governments. Stars David Oyelowo (SELMA), and Rosamund Pike (GONE GIRL).

THE GREAT WALL – Matt Damon defends The Great Wall of China against big monsters. Directed by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

A CURE FOR WELLNESS – Gore Verbinski (RANGO, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN), directs this psychological thriller/horror flick in which a young executive discovers dark secrets in his company’s luxurious spa. Stars Dane DeHaan and Jason Isaacs.

GET OUT – In this horror film, a young interracial couple finds terror when meeting the girl’s parents. Stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, and Bradley Whitford.

TULIP FEVER – In this historical drama, Dane DeHaan plays a 17th century artist who falls for another man’s wife. Co-stars Alicia Vikander, Zach Galifianakis, Judi Dench, and Christoph Waltz.


Next month, Episode III previews the month of March.